The Best of the Rest - UFA Defensemen Still on the Market

The Carolina Hurricanes are still in the market to sign a defenseman or two to fill a couple of open spaces on their blueline.  Canes management has teased the media with information that they are shopping for a "veteran defenseman", but have not given any particulars and have left that to conjecture and guesswork.  Here are the defensive players signed who are on the roster so far.

  1. Joni Pitkanen
  2. Tim Gleason
  3. Joe Corvo
  4. Niclas Wallin
  5. Frantisek Kaberle

Tim Conboy is also signed and is listed as a defenseman, but has usually played forward while up at the big club. We won't count him on this list.  Kaberle was healthy scratched quite often last season and it would be a stretch to count on him to play top four minutes.  Wallin has played in the top four at times but the Canes would like another option. 

Initially, Jim Rutherford mentioned that Anton Babchuk could be signed and would be paired in the top four, but with Babchuk's agent indicating that the "Big Unit" wanted a raise, Carolina management backed off that statement.  Now they claim to be in the market for a veteran presence, but who might they be interested in?

Here is a listing of the top UFA defensemen still on the market.  (This information is from NHL.com, with a hat-tip to Hockeymom for posting this in a fanpost comment.)

 

Martin Skoula Minnesota 4-12-16 in 81 GP
 At 29, Skoula doesn’t bring a lot of offense to the table, but he’s been a reliable minutes-muncher for years and owns a Stanley Cup ring from his days in Colorado.
 
Mathieu Schneider Montreal 9-23-32 in 67 GP
Even at 40 Schneider remains a useful offensive force on the blue line, especially on the power play.

Sergei Zubov Dallas 0-4-4 in 10 GP
Now 38 and coming off two injury-filled seasons, but his smarts alone would help a contender in a limited role if he’s healthy.

Christian Backman Columbus 2-5-7
in 56 GP Backman was something of a disappointment for the Blue Jackets, who acquired him from the Rangers last summer. He might benefit from a change of scenery.

Derek Morris NY Rangers 5-15-20 in 75 GP
The 31-year-old is looking for a job after the poorest offensive season of his NHL career.

Cory Murphy Tampa Bay 5-11-16 in 32 GP
Murphy does a good job running a power play and can move the puck. His biggest drawbacks have been a lack of size and the inability to stay healthy.

Andrew Alberts Philadelphia 1-12-13 in 79 GP
28-year-old is a solid third-pair defenseman who’s likely going to be looking for a new home following the Chris Pronger deal.

Darryl Sydor Dallas 3-12-15 in 73 GP
At 37, he can bring a couple of Stanley Cup rings, serve as a mentor for young defenders and still contribute on the ice.

Dennis Seidenberg Carolina 5-25-30 in 70 GP
The almost-28-year-old is coming off the best season of his career and showed he can play major minutes (22:19 average ice time in ’08-09).

Marc Andre Bergeron Minnesota 14-18-32 in 72 GP
Big gun from the point, especially on the power play, but not nearly as good in his own zone.

 

A couple of other players that the Canes could be interested in are Ossi Vaananen, a big strong defenseman who played for both the Canucks and Flyers last season, and maybe even Marek Malik, a player originally drafted by the Hartford Whalers, but who has been around the circuit since being traded to the Canucks in 2003.  While Malik is a big player at 6'5, he is not known for his physicality.

Keep in mind that the Hurricanes have several prospects who might be very close to making the next step to the NHL.  Bryan Rodney, Casey Borer, Brett Carson, Jamie McBain, and now Jay Harrison could each be considered strong candidates for the 5 and 6 positions, but it would be asking too much for them to step into the top four. 

Interestingly enough, Dennis Seidenberg, a player who's agent Jim Rutherford declared was "way out of whack" with his numbers, has still not been signed.  Also after all the initial hard talk, the team seems to have taken a softer position concerning Babchuk.  Would it be terribly shocking if either or both of those players ended up back in Raleigh?

First things first for Rutherford though.  The team probably has to know how much they will need to pay Tuomo Ruutu before they get serious with offers for another defenseman.  Interesting days are still ahead.

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